When you asked me how long it took me to work on the show I said 12 months, but there’s also a sense of “I’m coming home, and I’m communicating to my granddad.” My brother’s going to see the show, my uncle is going to see the show, and it’ll be the first time he’s ever seen my work. So I might say I’ve been working on it since I was born. – Michael Dean


Borrowing instruments and strategies from the practices of the sculptor, the writer and the typographer, British artist Michael Dean investigates the relationship between text and physicality. Exploring the three-dimensional  possibilities of language, Dean often ‘spells out’ his words through an alphabet of human-scale shapes, employing industrial and everyday materials such as concrete, steel, MDF, padlocks and dyed books of his writings.

While the transmutation of language is particularly important to Dean’s practice, his sculptures are not intended to be read as words, but rather to be identified as an element of language in their own form and imagined as a word or idea. He attributes a physical form to a personally developed language, based on a series of typographic alphabets, which he designs himself.

Addressing the timeless subject of human intimacy, references to the human body are recurrent throughout Dean’s works. Casts of his and his children's fists, limbs and fingers with drilled out eye holes and tongue muscles appear among the forms. The latter of these is particularly emblematic of  Dean’s overlapping interest in touch and language, since it is the part of the body which can feel, as well as taste, and which also molds words before they leave our mouths.

Michael Dean (b. 1977, Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom) lives and works in London.  
Dean has studied at the Goldsmiths University of London and has since gained international stature as one of the four finalists of the 2016 Turner Prize. He participated in the 2017 Skulptur Projekte in Münster and was nominated for the 2018 Hepworth Prize for Sculpture. Dean's works are in several prominent institutional collections, such as Tate, Henry Moore Foundation, Walker Art Center, S.M.A.K., Arts Council Collection, KADIST, The Hepworth Wakefield and Nasher Sculpture Center. 

Dean’s solo shows include: Herald St, London (2022); CC Strombeek, Grimbergen (2021); Mendes Wood DM, Brussels (2021); Converso, Milan (2020); Museo Rufino Tamayo, Mexico City (2019); BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead (2018); ShanghArt Gallery, Shanghai (2018); Herald St | Museum St, London (2017); Portikus, Frankfurt (2017); and Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas (2016).  

Additionally, his work was part of institutional group exhibitions such as  A season as a Meditation: Querying the World, Daegu Art Museum, Daegu (2022); WALK!, Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Frankfurt (2022); Kunstenfestival Watou, Watou, Belgium (2021); Bodies at Stake, MO.CO Montpellier Contemporary, Montpellier (2021); Scrivere Disegnando: When Language Seeks Its Other, Centre d'Art Contemporain Genève, Geneva (2020); Transparent Things, Goldsmiths CCA, London (2020); Yorkshire Sculpture International, The Hepworth Wakefield, Wakefield (2019); The Hepworth Prize for Sculpture 2018, The Hepworth Wakefield, Wakefield (2018); Against The Wall?, S.M.A.K., Ghent (2018); Skulptur Projekte Münster 2017, Münster (2017); Turner Prize, Tate Britain, London (2016); Sculptures Also Die, Centre for Contemporary Culture Strozzina, Florence, (2015); Mirror City, Hayward Gallery London, London (2014); and A History of Inspiration, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2013). 

Selected Artworks
  • Michael Dean

    Under the stairs and by the fire August 16, 2023

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